Scientist-priest garners world’s richest prize

Published April 1, 2001

Dr. Arthur Peacocke


A British scientist who is also an Anglican priest has been awarded the 2001 Templeton prize for Progress in Religion.

Arthur Peacocke, 72, an Oxford University Theology faculty member, founded the Society of Ordained Scientists in 1986 and is the author of nine books, co-editor of five multi-author volumes, and has written 75 papers . Dr. Peacocke has also written 126 scientific papers and three scientific books.

The prize, worth $1 million US is the largest annual prize in the world given to an individual. Previous winners include Mother Teresa, Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn.

According to biographical material, Dr. Peacocke had a traditional Anglican upbringing, but spent some time as an undergraduate “alienated from all things Christian”. However, he said he began to view Christianity as intellectually sound after hearing a sermon by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple. He was also compelled to examine questions of evil when the horrors of the holocaust became public knowledge after the Second World War.

Graduating first in chemistry with first class honor in 1946, and later with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford for research into bacterial growth, it was not until later in his academic life that Dr. Peacocke turned his thoughts to religion.

After the structure of DNA was announced in 1952, Dr. Peacocke, was part of a group that discovered that the double helix of DNA exists in solution and that its chains are not branched, contradicting current thinking of the time.

He went on to do research at universities in different parts of the world, and eventually earned the highest Oxford degree, Doctor of Science, in 1962.

He also began studying the philosophy of religion and science at the University of Birmingham. He was ordained in the Church of England as a worker priest in 1971 and the same year was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity Degree at the University of Birmingham and a Doctor of Divinity by Oxford in 1982, making him a unique holder in the 20th century of both the Oxford D.D. and D. Sc. Degrees for original published work.

In response to the news of the award, Dr. Peacocke said “science is the global language and possession of our times and it is time, especially now at the beginning of the first century of the new millennium, for thinkers and adherents of all religions to engage creatively with the universal perspectives of the sciences.”


Keep on reading

Skip to content